Missionary work is the past, present, and future of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When the Master commanded His Apostles to go out into all the world, He was speaking not only to them, but to you and I. The Standard Works are chocked full of stories, examples, and miracles resulting as a result of missionary work. It is one of the three-fold missions of the Church (which are in fact one mission, salvation for all, broken into three parts). I think a lot about missionary work, and I consequentially think of the people that I have taught, fellowshipped with, and shared the joy of the Gospel with. But there’s another side to sharing the Gospel that is an absolute reality to each person involved: it is hard. It is emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting.
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone, the Lord never promised that it would be unimportant, inconsequential, or passive. This is something that I think I was fully at grips with when I was serving full-time. I loved focusing on how demanding it was, that only those that worked the hardest, or took it the most seriously would prosper, and be able to further the work at a great place. Hard work is essential, but willingness and faith to do the work are vital to successful missionary work. Faith+willingness=hard work and success.
And now as I try and share the gospel with those that I know and love, I wonder why I don’t seem to have the earth-shaking experiences that some members had in my mission. Doors seemed to be open, at least once a transfer, that would lead to a baptism, but more importantly, a conversion. But almost every time I had a dinner appointment with members, the members would get sick of us asking for referrals, I would feel awkward asking for them, and there wouldn’t be any referrals. It seemed like members, for all the hard work they were anxious and willing to do, felt guilty for not knowing someone that we could teach and baptize that weekend. The Lord would never force His children to choose happiness, even when there are friends, family, and acquaintances around them that want them too. Not every person that we talk too will want to learn more.
In the Lord’s plan, requiring agency, each person seeking to do missionary work can only do so much. Remember the Lord’s invitations to “come and see” and “follow me.” Ask others to come and see, through inviting them to activities, not necessarily sacrament meetings, or invite them to dinner when the missionaries are over. Have mormon.org or lds.org as your home page. Live your life in a way that you can feel comfortable asking others to learn what you love and live.
I spent so much of my time as a full time missionary thinking I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t doing every single things I possibly could. I still fall into this trap, especially in areas of my life that I can’t control. But I know that the only way for the Lord’s work to move forward is in His time, way, and will. Instead of focusing on the things that we do wrong, let’s focus on the things that we do right. We read our scriptures, talk about Church activities, even something as little as putting what our religious views are on a facebook page. And no matter how frustrating or fruitless are efforts may seem, remember that each person the Lord invites to “come to Him” does not heed his call. How can we expect 100% success if we remember that Father's plan relies on the ability to choose? Remember the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I bear witness that He came from God as a God to bind up the brokenhearted, to dry the tears from every eye, to proclaim liberty to the captive and open the prison doors to them that are bound. I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world.”
And remember, remember, “if ye know these things, see that ye do them.” Miracles will happen!